Pot, Romanians and redevelopment

I tried to care about the operating costs of a proposed downtown convention center. Really, I did. Friendly Peppermill/Atlantis/John Ascuaga’s Nugget lobbyist Tom Clark called last week to let us know that making everyone’s room tax pay for the downtown facility would be unfair to the off-North Virginia casinos. The convention center downtown would, said Clarke, be identical to the Nugget’s facility, which cost Ascuaga some $50 million over the past 25 years.

“There’s no way the Nugget can compete,” Clark said, predicting that downtown casinos will draw conventions away from the Nugget with low room rates.

“[The Nugget] has to pay employees, their debt, maintenance,” he said, adding that making everyone pay the operating costs of a public-funded facility is a bit like corporate welfare. “You’re going to give millions to companies like Harrah’s.”

So I tried to care. But I was distracted, thinking about such mundane things as my power bill or my kids’ education. I care more that the University of Nevada, Reno, is starting a work, study and research exchange with a leading Romanian university. (I wonder if they need writing instructors in Transylvania. I already own a silver cross.)

Maybe it’s just me. But the casinos’ argument over yet another big money-losing project (think National Bowling Stadium) designed to save Reno’s butt from the collective evils of Indian and online gambling and high gas prices and just plain old lack of interest feels a bit hackneyed.

Are we sure we want to raise room taxes again? OK. Go ahead and sock it to tourists who may wonder why in the heck they still come to Reno when they could log on to one of dozens of gambling Web sites based in Antigua and lose money from the comfort of home. I can think of only a few good reasons to raise room taxes or other taxes, fees and fines. All have more to do with people than buildings.

Sure, teachers in Nevada should get raises. That ought to go without saying, but sometimes we have to repeat ourselves to assist the hard of hearing.

But how about funding medical marijuana research? The recent U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that marijuana has no medical benefits was largely the result of a lack of data. That lack is itself a result of the paucity of federally controlled marijuana with which to perform research.

We need to work out a deal with the feds. Instead of storing nuclear waste here, they could grow pot. We could sell it by the ounce—or by the bale. We could even, as suggested by a legislative committee set up to look at medical marijuana in Nevada, do the research ourselves at UNR. Academics from universities around the world, like Romania, would visit, renting rooms at the Nugget or Harrah’s. The casinos could pitch in for a Cannabis Research Center downtown and sell admission to volunteers willing to experiment with various delivery methods devised by local pipe shops.Think outside the box, Renoites. It’s time to inhale or start stringing garlic.